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On Thursday, Barley's Angels hosts a chili cookoff for charity. The group has been instrumental in Milwaukee's craft beer culture for six years.

All sorts of people and groups have played big parts in the rapidly growing craft beer scene in Milwaukee. One group whose role can’t be underestimated has been around for the long haul.

Erin Anderson by Jessi Paetzke.

The Milwaukee chapter of Barley’s Angels formed in the summer of 2012. There were roughly 25 women at the group’s first meeting at Sugar Maple in August 2012. The local craft beer scene was decidedly different then and Milwaukee’s brewery explosion was still a few years away.

“I knew I wanted to do something that was specifically women focused,” said Erin Anderson, who was a co-founder of the Milwaukee chapter. “I hooked up with Natalie Coulthurst, Meagan (O’Brien) Colangelo and Joan LaRosa Doyle. Both Meagan and Joan have since moved away from MKE and are no longer involved in the chapter. Meagan had helped start the Twin Cities Chapter of Barley’s Angels, so really the rest is history.”

The group meets once a month at breweries, beer bars and other beer-related events, but Barley’s Angels is much more than a social club for beer drinking women. The group’s mission is to allow for women to learn about craft beer in a “friendly, educational and supportive environment.”

“We don’t really have ‘memberships’,” said Anderson. “Ladies attend when they can and there is usually a small fee involved in each meeting. We also don’t have an ‘average’ member. Most are ladies who love beer, want to learn more and want to support the Milwaukee beer community.”

The gatherings are not just about beer tastings and learning from those in the brewing industry. The October meeting on Thursday (Oct. 18) shows off the Angels’ charitable side. Ladies & Ladles is a chili cookoff that benefits Cynthia’s Breast Cancer Giving Circle. The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. at Black Husky Brewing (909 E. Locust St.).

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Barley’s Angels started in 2011 in Portland as an offshoot of the Pink Boots Society, a group dedicated to connecting women working in the beer industry. The Milwaukee chapter is one of many Barley’s Angels groups around the world.

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